Anchor: With the widespread coronavirus scare, would you say that the order given by the CJN on shutting down the courts is a good initiative given the fact that many crimes and cases are piled up for hearing.
Efure Inedia: Since February 27, 2020 when the first case of the COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed in Nigeria, the country has recorded over 80 cases of others with the disease, sadly, one of the victims is dead and only a few others have recovered from the disease. It is no longer news that the pandemic is highly contagious and that social distancing as well as proper hygiene are the only known prevention to the disease.
The world is on a lockdown and the story in Nigeria is not different. Educational, political, financial and even the commercial institutions have been temporarily shutdown, curfews have been placed in some areas like Niger state to implement this. The judicial sector is not left out.
The judiciary is made up of humans and what happens when everyone is sick? What happens when the Courts are left to operate but litigants are unable to attend proceedings due to restrictions of movement?
Yes, everyone deserves a timely trial. However, applying the utilitarian principle, our general well being must be paramount and the right to timely trial has to be on hold to achieve this. I must commend the CJN for this timely and proactive step.
Just as a reminder, a friend of mine said; ” if as a legal practitioner, you get hit by how useless your discipline is with regards to saving the world compared to health related courses, don’t fret so much because it will soon be your turn to save the world when things get back to normal. Wrongs must be done, toes must be stepped on, cases on the inability to fulfill one’s contractual duty due to this frustration, medical negligence, tax evasion, tort cases are definitely piling up and it will be your duty to bring justice.
Let’s all play our parts for the meantime by staying at home.
Anchor: Would you say objectively that the Judiciary as the third arm of government is living up to its responsibilities giving to recent events in the country.
Efure Inedia: An independent judiciary is very crucial to every nation’s growth. Over the years, the judiciary has, as is popularly said, being the last hope of the common man and by and large, this function has been judiciously discharged. Over the years, we have had pronouncements from the courts which borders more on judicial activism, these pronouncements have helped in shaping the course of governance in Nigeria.
However, I feel that the institution of checks and balances has caused so much interference on the judiciary. Sadly, we now have more of a dependent judiciary that has been subjected to dancing to the tunes of the Piper when in fact, they should be the Piper, hence, their hands are tied down in certain decisions. We can see this in recent happenings like the removal of the last CJN and the appointment of the present one, as well as in some supreme Court rulings like that of the Imo state gubernatorial election petition.
I humbly suggest that the judiciary as the third arm of government strive to pull out of the hold of the other arms of government and act in line with their true duties. This may be difficult, but for the sustenance of our profession, we have to try.
Anchor: What do you think about the late push of the review of the apex court judgement recently and do you think it limits the Judiciary competence?
Efure Inedia: As Hon. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, J.S.C., of blessed memory, said; “We are not final because we are infallible; rather we are infallible because we are final”. Justices of this Court are human beings capable of erring. It will definitely be shortsighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth. The Apex Court has done so much good with it’s wise decisions but the court is also capable of producing harm through it’s mistakes.
The supreme Court has been and remains the final court of the land. Section 235 of the 1999 constitution provides that “without prejudice to powers of the president or a governor with respect to prerogative of mercy, no appeal shall lie to any other body or person from any determination from the supreme Court”. This is the law and this rule has led to the clamour for the review of supreme Court judgements by itself.
In all common law practicing countries, the court allows people to review their judgements and a few cases have gone to the supreme Court for review in Nigeria. One of these cases includes; Bar Oriker Jeo and ors v. Iyortom and Ors (2015).
I do not feel that the call for review of the supreme Court judgements is a limit to judicial competence. The Apex Court allows us to come for review when it makes a mistake acknowledging that they are humans capable of falling. Reviews have happened in the past, in Nigeria and other common law practicing countries, I see no reason why they cannot happen again.
Anchor: Can you keep us abreast with any legal justification or argument for the recent removal of the emir of Kano and in the reverse any valid argument for the deposed emir?
Efure Inedia: Kano state Executive council, on March 9, 2020, approved and directed the immediate removal, dethronement and relocation of Emir Sanusi Lamido. This was said to have been done due to the deposed emir’s general disrespect to instructions from authorities and refusal to attend official programs organised by the government. Following the delivery of the letter, the deposed Emir was forcefully removed by a horde of security agents and flown out of Kano into exile and Emir Aminu Ado Bayero, appointed in his stead.
The removal of the Emir was purportedly done pursuant to the Kano State Emirate Council Law of 2019 and that, in my opinion, is the only legal justification to this act.
The removal and appointment, although done pursuant to the law, was however, not performed in accordance with the Constitution.
There are judicial authorities to the fact that; no man can be banished from his own country. The case of Attorney General and commissioner of justice, Kebbi state v. HRH Al-Mustapha Jokolo (2013) held that the banishment and deportation of the respondent by the Kebbi State government, to Nasarawa state as the deposed Emir of Gwandu was unlawful and unconstitutional. This forceful removal is clearly in violation to the emir’s right to personal liberty, private and family life, peaceful assembly and freedom of movement, respectively guaranteed by sections 34, 35, 37, 40 and 41 of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria.
The banishment of traditional head is a colonial remnant and must be thrown away. In my opinion, I see the dethronement and banishment of the deposed Emir as politically motivated.
Anchor: As is now the case, an election by INEC is no longer considered as a conclusive way to win a political office in Nigeria, the court has somewhat increased their role in determining this. What is your comment on the judgement of Imo State gubernatorial election.
Efure Inedia: It was the usual practice in Nigeria to take to the streets in riots when in doubt of an election result. However, recent aggrieved parties have taken to the courts and yes, we can say that the judiciary now plays a very crucial role in Nigerian elections. I however feel that the courts have gone a little overboard in their operations.
In Imo state, the supreme Court sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP as governor of Imo state and declared Hope Uzodinma of the APC, winner of the March 9th, 2019 Imo state gubernatorial election. This was done on the basis of unlawfully cancelled polling units amounting to 213, 295 votes and that Ihedioha’s win was based on the wrong computation of results.
The supreme Court went ahead to overrule the judgement of the lower courts on this matter. The lower courts had previously discredited the witnesses of 28 cancelled polling units agents and ruled that the grounds for the petition had not been proven. On appeal to the supreme Court, the Court declared that the cancelled votes from those polling units be added to the total votes of Hope Uzodinma who came 4th in the election with 96, 458 votes. The court overlooked the other petitioners and declared the 4th person winner of the election.
While this seems like a big step by the judiciary to stand out in audacious judgements, I feel they went overboard with this one. It is not the duty of the court to determine the winners of elections. In my opinion, the supreme Court should have directed the electoral body, INEC, to conduct a rerun in the 388 cancelled polling units.
About the author
Efure Inedia is a law student of the University of Abuja, a social commentator and legal Author.
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